“Books and reading books have become ‘cool’ again,” he said.
He said there had been a surge in book sales last year as people sought to read more while stuck at home.
“People have spent so much time on screens,” he said.
“At the end of the day, books are entertainment.”
But brick-and-mortar players have been hit by trade restrictions, leading to a drop in foot traffic amid the depths of the pandemic, like retailers in other segments.
Mr Newman, who is in Adelaide to open a new $3.3million Dymocks supermarket in the former Regent Theater building off Rundle Mall on Wednesday, believes the omnichannel approach is the right one to drive maximum growth .
Dymocks operates 50 stores, down from a peak of around 80 outlets when the business was almost exclusively bricks and mortar.
Books and reading books have become “cool” again.
— Mark Newman, CEO of Dymocks
“Consumers, authors and publishers all want physical bookstores to continue to thrive,” he said.
Having large flagship stores is important for continued customer growth, as many people like to browse or read a few pages before committing to a purchase.
He said online sales on Dymocks accounted for around 15% of total sales. Before the pandemic, online sales on Dymocks were around 5%. Mr Newman said Dymocks has no aspirations of how big online penetration might be.
“I think it’s hard to say. We are ready for that to be what it becomes,” he said.
Mr Newman said the new Regent Theater supermarket, which covers 980 square meters and includes three 10-metre-high curved wooden arches as design features to draw customers’ eyes to the shelves and ornate 13-metre ceilings top, is a company-owned store. Dymocks has eight company-owned stores, 42 of which are operated under franchise agreements.
Dymocks competes with a range of players, including traditional independent booksellers such as Readings in Melbourne and Gleebooks in Sydney, and online giants such as Booktopia and Amazon.
Booktopia is a pure bookseller that listed on the ASX in a $43 million initial public offering in December 2020, but has seen a sharp decline in its share price over the past eight months . Booktopia was trading at $2.99 at the end of August last year, but slipped to 70¢.
Booktopia shares were issued at $2.30 in the IPO and ended their first day of trading at $2.60, valuing the company at $357 million.
Booktopia had tried to raise $40 million via an IPO in 2016, but was forced to pull the plug because investors were spooked by the impending arrival of Amazon and its book business, The Book Depository, on the $2.5 billion Australian book market.
Mr Newman said the new store contained 10 pieces of theater furniture which had been discovered in the basement of the Regent Theatre. The theater opened in 1928 and closed in 2004.